By Alice Beyer Schuch in behalf of Circular Economy Club – Sep/18
Last 14th/15th September the Cradle to Cradle Congress took place in Lüneburg, Germany. Organised by the C2C Association – which is planning a 300qm C2C LAB to be open in Berlin by 2019 – the event focused strongly on the textile and fashion industry as a “huge dirty sector with a great potential for improvements”! So here is a brief summary of some presented examples!
“We shall stop thinking on how to deal with waste.
Instead, we have to design-out waste”
said Donald Brenninkmeijer (C&A Chief Innovation Officer) opening the impulse talks. The company invested heavily on R&D with the supply chain to be able to launch, in 2017, its first C2C certified products. As it can cost up to 20% more than a conventional item, to offer it in an affordable price range, indirect investments were not considered and reduced margin applied. And the market reacted positively – 75% was sold within 3 weeks! Nevertheless, for Donald, there is still a long path ahead and the renewable energy poses the biggest current challenge on developing C2C products, with only 10% of the suppliers ready.
But more than ready was Cotton Blossom, their manufacture partner. The director Philomena John shown us that, when thinking holistically since the beginning, the sustainable positive changes come naturally. For the 14-years-old verticalized manufacture, to be C2C certified was not that difficult. “The dyeing process has been the most challenging, allowing only 5 colours at first stage” said Philomena. Today there is a broad number of options on colours, materials and textures, as well as different prints, embroideries and trims available for the 1,5 million pieces per month the company produces.
Cradle to Cradle is also in the DNA of start-ups! The brand Mela Wear, born in 2014, shared an incredible enthusiasm for a good fashion. Today they are present in around 400 shops and reached €1 million revenue. The C2C gold standards are the base for the development of each item – basic garments, backpacks and now shoes – though the brand does not consider certifications due to financial constraints and market demand. Going further, for Mela Wear C2C is a strong concept related to materiality but missing attention to living-wages (rather than legal minimal-wages). For this reason, a system of bonus has been adopted, directly sending financial meanings to all involved workers. Mela Wear’s vision can be checked in the recent published book “Sustainable Fashion” side-by-side to big corporations.
The digital platform circular.fashion also works on the betterment of the industry – connecting the whole process, from material and trims, to design strategies, to the generation of a product circular.fashion ID. This ID contains information for the consumer on transparency and traceability as well as on the specific recycle partner for the end-of-use phase. Another intermediary steps can be also considered such as designing for longevity through multifunctionality, maintenance and repair inputs, redesign strategies, or even connecting to renting/library partners.
The German textile company Lauffenmühle also presented the result of their 6 years of intense development in C2C. Their infinito® yarn and reworx® textile serve to the biological sphere, replacing polyester, offering the same properties and resistance but are biodegradable and free of toxic substances such as antimuonium (commonly found in PET bottles). Among their clients are companies producing mattresses, curtains and protective and working hospital clothes, as well as fashion names such as Manufactum and Wolford. For the development of the soon-to-be-launched Wolford line, 16 companies worked together from fibre to packaging, and even the oil used to lubricate the sewing machines was adapted! A never-ending mission!
What we can see is that, despite the size of the companies, the steps towards C2C implementation seem to be similar in all cases. Prof. Friederike von Wedel-Parlow (Founder of the Beneficial Design Institute) has resumed it in a coherent guide-line:
- Start the change with a well-known commercial product with big impact and reduced complexity;
- Work with a partner company as vertical as possible, to facilitate the development of the whole process and connect to different experts, from different fields;
- Make sure you can have access to information about all materials and components needed in the product. Also avoid, as far as possible, incompatible materials and finishing;
- Think about the possible re-utilization of the designed product since the beginning;
- Do not compromise the design, as high quality and aesthetics are essential;
- Be creative and open, as it will help developing new solutions, step-by-step;
- Share it! It will bring benefits in the log-term, reducing risks, saving costs and supporting tackling new issues.
And we should not wait the perfect moment! The congress has proven we all can do something on the right direction. So…
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”
Cover pic: @Max Arens